Flying cars are one step closer to everyday reality. Red Oak-based Qarbon Aerospace has been selected by Texas-based LIFT Aircraft to perform the complete system integration and assembly for HEXA, its 18-propeller, one-person eVTOL platform. Designed as a recreational aircraft that anyone can fly for $249 after a one-hour lesson, the HEXA has also won U.S. Air Force R&D contracts for air ambulance and autonomous cargo retrieval uses.
Qarbon Aerospace was formed just last month when equity firm Arlington Capital Partners acquired the composites business of Triumph Group, Inc. The composites business will now operate independently and has been renamed Qarbon Aerospace. The HEXA integration and assembly will take place in Qarbon’s Red Oak Facility, Qarbon announced today.
Qarbon operates nearly two million square feet of factory space across three facilities in Red Oak, Milledgeville, GA, and Rayong, Thailand—providing large, complex structural components and assemblies such as fuselages, wings, flight control surfaces, and engine nacelles. The Thailand facility currently manufactures HEXA’s carbon-fiber structure.
In addition to the system integration and assembly agreement, Qarbon will perform supply chain sourcing for the HEXA, making the aerospace supplier the end-to-end manufacturer of the aircraft.
“This integration and assembly work expands upon the strong existing relationship between Qarbon Aerospace and the LIFT Aircraft team,” said Qarbon CEO Pete Wick in a statement. “We’re very proud that LIFT has placed their confidence in us to support them as the manufacturer of choice for their first-to-market eVTOL aircraft.”
An easy-to-pilot one-person flying car
LIFT Aircraft calls the HEXA “the world’s first personal flying experience for everyone.”
“We believe everyone should be able to experience the thrill and magic of personal, vertical flight,” the company says on its website.
LIFT doesn’t sell its aircraft. Instead, it says it’s the first company on earth to run an “experiential entertainment business” based on quick flying-car flights. For a fee, customers can fly the HEXA after about an hour of training, “no pilot’s license required.”
Fly San Francisco Bay—or DFW—for $199
The company plans to open LIFT locations in scenic, uncongested areas of San Francisco Bay, Miami, New York City, and yes, Dallas-Fort Worth. It’s currently offering early bird flight reservations on its website for $199.
The regular price for the HEXA “experience is $249—including safety training, flight controls instruction in a VR simulator, preflight checks with LIFT’s ground crew, and a flight briefing from a “remote safety pilot.” Customers will then fly HEXA solo in LIFT’s geofenced, controlled flight areas for up to 15 minutes.
Founded in 2017
LIFT was founded in Austin in 2017 by its CEO Matt Chasen, who previously founded uShip, with a mission of making flying accessible to anyone. Chasen’s team designed HEXA as a hover-focused aircraft, optimized for safety, that conforms to FAR Part 103 regulations—and thus requires no pilot’s license to operate.
A full-scale prototype of HEXA was built using massive 3D-printed molds and had its first unmanned flight in July 2018. Its first manned flight followed three months later, with Chasen at the controls.
U.S. Air Force gets invested
In March 2020, the U.S. Air Force awarded LIFT an R&D contract to explore the use of HEXA as an air ambulance. A month later, the Air Force selected LIFT for its Agility Prime Initiative, which is exploring how flying cars could “rewrite” how the Air Force and civilian society does logistics and transportation.
By August 2020, LIFT had received a $2.5 million Air Force flight test contract, and gave then-U.S. Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett her own manned test flight.
“The thought of an electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle—a flying car—might seem straight out of a Hollywood movie,” Barrett said in a statement at the time. “But by partnering today with stakeholders across industries and agencies, we can set up the United States for this aerospace phenomenon.”
HEXA gets a lift from a C-130
Just last March, the Air Force proved one aspect of HEXA viability by loading a HEXA aircraft into the cargo hold of a C-130 and flying it from Springfield, Ohio, to Austin—confirming its potential for use in various military missions.
Now, with a lineup of HEXAs slated to be assembled in Qarbon’s Red Oak facility, LIFT is one step closer to giving everyday Joes and Jills a solo, airborne thrill ride—while helping the Air Force prepare to perform missions worldwide.
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